My wife has been using her Ron D Swan panniers for about two years now and I doubt she could find a better harder-wearing pannier anywhere.
What makes Ron D Swan panniers so cool is they’re made from off-cuts from awnings. This is cool for a couple of reasons, first up because it means they’re made from a waste product and secondly because it means they’re all made in cool funky stripes. They’re like the awnings on your granny’s place but on your bike.
If you’ve ever gazed up at your granny’s awnings you might have notice that they’ve been there for years and they’re still going strong. All that wind and rain hasn’t wearied them. Ron D Swan panniers are like that. The thick and stiff cotton of the awning material is built to take years and years of punishment. (I’ll come back to how they’ve worn in two years but for now let’s move on to more of the cool features of Ron D Swan panniers.)
|Ron D Swan pannier stuffed with about 5kg of books and clothes, ready to go to work.|
Ron D Swan weren’t (yes, weren’t, Ron D Swan is not a singular person) content to just make a normal pannier with an environmentally friendly fabric, they also innovated. All the panniers I’ve used in the past have hooks that hang it on the rack. Often these hooks have a little zipped compartment to hide them away when they’re not on the bike. You still have hooks though and they’re not very comfortable when you’re carrying the bag around. Ron D Swan panniers have reversed the hook process. They give you a metal bar that attaches to your bike. This bar has the hooks on it and these hooks slip very neatly into a straight metal blade discretely located at the top of the pannier. This means that when you remove the pannier the you have nothing but a bag hanging over your shoulder. A webbed belt is provided for you to sling the bag over your shoulder once off the bike.
These panniers have other things going for them but your chief advantages of Ron D Swan panniers are enviro-cool and chic-cool. Plus they’re tough a old boots. In the two years in which my wife has used them almost constantly they’ve shown very little in the way of signs of wear. The backing on the panniers, a white plastic coating, is fraying and wearing. This may make the panniers less waterproof. I reckon awnings aren’t made to be stuffed with books and clothes 300 days of the year and this is a possible short-coming of the fabric used in Ron D Swan panniers. For me, it’s hardly a concern. The wear is acceptable after two years and the thick cotton will benefit from some waterproofing material if waterproofing becomes a concern. I’ve never actually owned a waterproof pannier anyway, just a few that pretended to be, and habitually stuffed all my gear into plastic bags before stuffing them into the pannier.
|Innards of Ron D Swan panniers. Notice wear lines around lip of pannier.|
My wife is now adept at getting the panniers on and off the bike. It’s not a difficult exercise and let me tell you y wife would complain if it was. Similarly, attaching the metal plate with hooks onto the rack is not a difficult exercise, though not one my wife was up to. I complimented the installation with the addition of a zip tie to make it all more secure. The process is certainly easier than some other panniers I have used (such as the crappy laptop bag/pannier I bought in a moment of madness).
Of course, I would never have dreamed of buying Ron D Swan panniers back then (had they existed) because I was a student and a tight-arse, and Ron D Swan panniers to attract a premium. I’d argue that the quality justifies the price, moreover you should pay extra for something that is enviro-friendly. It’s a moral decision we all have to grapple with but I’d hope that as cyclist you’re at least slightly more disposed to caring about the planet than the next redneck.
|Ron D Swan panniers on the bike.|
|Sophie insisted on getting a photo of her included.|